Gone Belly Up

I thought that my goldfish was malfunctioning, but after a closer look I figured out that it must have died, because it is just floating around in my aquarium upside down.  My beloved pet fish was extinguished before its time.  Fish are able to maintain proper buoyancy when they’re alive, because most fish possess an organ commonly known as a swim bladder.  This organ can be filled or emptied of air by the fish at will via its gills, allowing them to either float higher, sink lower or stay suspended at about the same depth.  The swim bladder has a side effect of making the fish unstable, as the relative position of a fish’s “centre of buoyancy” is, amongst fish with swim bladders, almost universal located below their centre of mass near their stomach, making them quite prone to hydrostatic rolling which is just a fancy way of saying it makes them more likely to go belly up. If a fish’s swim bladder is not filled with air when they die, then it will sink and decompose. Sadly the only fish that I ever caught was belly up, half rotted away washed up on the shore.

As a bug nears its death, normal blood flow ceases, causing its legs to contract inwardly. Not having the proper support from its scrawny legs any more, the body of the insect becomes top-heavy, and it usually falls upside-down, assuming that familiar pose of lying on their back and this is just becomes a matter of physics where gravity takes over.  When they go belly up their legs stick up in the air, because they can’t roll back onto their abdomen.  The ailing bug will soon be deceased once its coordination and nervous system fail.  Normally when a bug is knocked onto its back, it can use its legs to rock on its sides until it rights itself, but if the bug becomes too weak, it will remain stuck on its back.

It doesn’t happen to every single bug that kicks the bucket, but frequently you will stumble upon an expired insect laying flat on their backs, with their legs in the air.  If a bug comes in contact an insecticide, the poison will disrupt nerve impulses and shut down communication in the bug’s nervous system.  This becomes a one-two punch, the poison ravages the bug’s coordination system and also causes spasms and convulsions.  Once the bug stumbles and lands on its back or spasms so hard that it flips itself over, it usually can’t handle the intricacies of righting itself again.  It will be stuck belly up until death takes hold.

Written for Linda G. Hill Life in progress One-Liner Wednesday – July 11 prompt.

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